# Roller coaster physics conceptual question

• Ryan Saunders
In summary, students in a high school physics class built roller coasters and had to answer questions about them. One question asked why the power had to be found at the bottom of the loop, considering energy and velocity. The student attempted to explain the conversion from kinetic energy to potential energy and the role of gravity and normal force, but was unsure how to incorporate velocity.
Ryan Saunders

## Homework Statement

For my high school physics class we made roller coasters out of card stock with various loops and funnels. We then had multiple questions to answer. I couldn't seem to figure this one out.

Why does the power have to be found at the bottom of the loop? Explain in terms of both energy and velocity.

## Homework Equations

Power=Work/time
Work=Force*Distance or the change in kinetic energy
Force=Mass*Acceleration

## The Attempt at a Solution

I figured that the conversion from kinetic energy (at the bottom of the loop) to potential energy (at the top of the loop) could have an affect on the power. But I was not sure about how velocity played a part. I also know that gravity is constantly pulling down on the marble and force normal is keep it on the track, but like before I didn't know how to incorporate it.

I think we need to see earlier parts of the question to understand the context.

## 1. How do roller coasters stay on the track?

Roller coasters stay on the track due to a combination of gravity, centripetal force, and the design of the track itself. As the coaster moves along the track, the wheels and the track interact to create friction, which helps to keep the coaster on the track and prevent it from flying off. Additionally, the track is designed with dips, loops, and turns that help to control the speed and direction of the coaster, keeping it on the track at all times.

## 2. What is the difference between potential and kinetic energy on a roller coaster?

Potential energy refers to the energy stored in an object due to its position or height. In the case of a roller coaster, potential energy is highest at the top of a hill or loop, as the coaster has the most potential to move downward and gain speed. Kinetic energy, on the other hand, is the energy an object has due to its motion. As the coaster moves down the track, its potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, which allows it to move and gain speed. At the bottom of a hill or loop, the coaster has the most kinetic energy.

## 3. How does friction affect the speed of a roller coaster?

Friction plays a crucial role in the speed of a roller coaster. In areas where the track is smoother and there is less friction, the coaster will be able to move faster. However, in areas where there is more friction, such as tight turns or areas with more resistance, the coaster will slow down. Friction also helps to keep the coaster on the track, as described in the first question.

## 4. Why do some roller coasters have loops while others do not?

The presence of loops on a roller coaster depends on the design and intended experience of the ride. Loops provide a thrilling and exciting experience for riders, as they experience high speeds and extreme forces. However, loops also require a lot of energy and careful design to ensure the safety of riders. Some roller coasters may not have loops due to space constraints, cost, or the intended audience for the ride.

## 5. Can roller coasters defy the laws of physics?

Although roller coasters can create the illusion of defying the laws of physics, they are ultimately governed by the laws of physics. Roller coasters are carefully designed and engineered to ensure the safety and enjoyment of riders, while still adhering to the principles of physics. However, the unique design and thrilling experience of roller coasters may make it seem like they are defying the laws of physics.

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